August 2008

Fulfilling a sacred duty to my dad

By Art Goodtimes

VINCENZO … It was incredibly healing to go back to California, land I was born into, and spend two and a half months accompanying my father on his passage into the great mystery. As the eldest son, in the Italian tradition, it was my duty to do this. And it was a duty I welcomed as an honor. And a great learning. Vince’s passing is the subject of this week’s Talking Gourd. And his condition the day before he died follows in The Deep item directly below … But I have to say from the get-go that the American social safety net worked for my dad, a WWII veteran, in the Bay Area, and with a very good union health-care plan with the National Association of Letter Carriers … Yolanda Betran of Community Services Agency got me connected, provided counseling when I first came to town to provide home hospice care for my Dad in Mountain View … Cedar Crest Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Sunnyvale did a wonderful job getting Dad back on track to living at home, with my assistance, after a short bout at El Camino Hospital (where Dr. Mary Kornei kept a watchful eye on him for many years) … When I did enlist the aid of Pathways Hospice, a non-profit group, I got incredible help from everyone in the organization, but especially Melinda Kotterman the nurse, Bonnie Shisler the social worker and Cathy Lynch the community-relations coordinator … And finally, when care got beyond the capability of untrained me at home, my family didn’t have to spend vast sums (we don’t have) on private rest homes and assisted- care facilities. Instead, the Veterans Administration in Palo Alto was able to provide quality care, with nurses, aides, docs and volunteers all taking the time to get to know patients and their families individually, in a lovely hospice unit with an aquarium and bird cage and visiting pets, and at no charge to my father, who had served his country during war. Paperwork was minimal, and TLC was paramount, thanks to Sheila Kennedy and her excellent Unit 4-A staff (another GREAT group of folks!). Family was welcome to stay with loved ones around the clock. So, in the end I spent a two-day vigil at his bedside and had the privilege of being there, holding his arm, as spirit left his body, in the deep coma of the dying, when life is breath alone, and a heart that won’t stop pumping.

THE TALKING GOURD

Good Morning

beside him holding his arm
as he took his last breath
at the VA

Palo Alto near Mountain View
high fogs
reincarnate into blue

as they often do
on the Peninsula
in the San Andreas dawn

especially in a dry year
Big Sur
an inferno of crown fires

promising next spring’s morels
Dad dead at first light
gaunt & beautiful

THE DEEP … Barely breathing. Tubes in his nostrils bubbling oxygen through water into his lungs. Wind but no sails. His beard shaved. Teeth stowed. His mind’s anchor lost to the typhoon in his brain. Eyes that stare but don’t see. He is beyond recognition … His heart got a boost from the auxiliary motor of his pacemaker implant still pumping him up. Obedient to the blood it serves. Although the will to live had abandoned ship. He’d make little cries, like a long-necked cormorant. Involuntary. Hospice SOS. Dreaming harbor in a sea of white sheets … So he breathes, but rudderless. The morphine a wetsuit so the ocean chill of pain can’t touch him. Breath for the sake of breath. Mechanical. About to be becalmed. he is, like us, waiting for it to stop, like it began. Deep in the mystery.

MUSH FEST … Don’t miss the 29th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, Aug. 21-24. Visit www.tellurideinstitute. org/page_62 for more details … But it’s the parade on Saturday at 5 p.m. that’s the free event to die for. Hundreds of folks dressing as mushrooms and parading down Telluride’s main street … Bring a costume and join in!

GET READY FOR ‘DEM DAMN DEMS … They’ll drive you crazy. Especially if you’re Green and socially conscious. Pulling all those multinational shenanigans under Clinton, outsourcing America’s jobs overseas and gutting the industrial heartland in a devil’s bargain for cheap consumer goods, supporting the war, etc. etc. … So, my old SF photog-turned-poet buddy Kit Hedman is hosting a Jam Before the Slam event at the legendary Mercury Café the Sunday before the Donkeys descend on Denver, Aug. 24, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. “I’m calling it an open letter to the DNC,” he explained. “The idea is to present poems or statements as if we were addressing delegates to the Democratic National Convention or the two presidential candidates themselves.” The poets will perform with or without Seth’s veteran improv sound ensemble Art Compost & the Word Mechanics … Put it on your political calendar.

OIL & GAS MOUTH ORGAN … “The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” Club 20 wants us to believe, because the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) says it’s so. After all, isn’t that who controls the Western Slope – big industry? Well, maybe in some counties … If we were to believe Kathy Hall and other COGA flacks, obviously, the oil & gas industry is about to pull out of Western Colorado (although they’re clearly hot to trot to lease the top of the Roan Plateau ASAP), and obviously there are going to be hundreds of jobs lost (although most impacted cities are projecting school, road and housing crunches), and obviously property taxes will go into the tank (although impact assistance required in neighboring oil & gas states is all substantially higher than in Colorado), and obviously these new rules will hamstring future investment (although Shell’s pumping millions into oil shale right now and half the state is actively being leased), and Colorado’s about to be blackballed by the industry) ... Yep, believe Club 19. Believe oil & gas. The state’s economy is kaput if Gov. Ritter’s Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (CGOCC) adopts new environmentally sensitive rule changes, as proposed … ’Course, what Hall & Club 19 won’t tell you is that current COGCC regulations only pay half the cost of the state’s abandoned- well program, so taxpayers have been subsidizing industry’s failure to clean up after its own messes for a decade, under former Gov. Owen’s industry-cozy system. ’Course the industry likes the status quo – they foist the avoided costs of abandoned wells and other unmitigated impacts on taxpayers… I say kudos to Ritter for leveling the playing field between big, messy companies trying to screw the competition and small, harried landowners trying to protect their water and air.

DEVIANT BON-BONZ … Back when I was a good little seminarian, (though a spiritual naïf and barely a teen), I started out on what’s turned into a lifelong association with an eclectic assemblage of poor matchstick immortal diamond products of Cardinal Newman’s much-vaunted Renaissance-era liberalarts education. Me and my Bay Area buddies were inculcated into the Roman Catholic canon and liturgy under the Sulpicians, not the Jesuits (think Da Vinci Code, direct ties to the Vatican, et cum spiritu tuo) … Now years later, many of us talk on line. And in so doing, engage in a jousting repartee among many bonded wiseasses from a smorgasboard of belief systems … So! Comes now my super-cynical ultra-partisan shadow side, usually reserved for the most snarky of personas -- where I can be as dark as I want to be. And, while others will disagree, deviant’s intent is to win the argument by whatever nasty example is needed … So I gotta say it … It's damn ironic. All dem recycled Raygun rightwing dingalings proud of how the GOP brought down the Berlin Wall and opened up the Soviet Bloc to Capitalism. Hurrah! … And now it's these same neomoronic con men & their pet dragon dolls putting up a new Berlin Wall on our southern border! Telling all our brown-skinned have-not compadres (who only want to work for us at Wal-Mart wages) to stay the f*** out! … I mean, as immigrants ourselves, what gall! Damn ironic, all right! … Tell you what, Sarky. Time to pack up Ellis Island’s La Liberté and take her back to Paris … Unlike what TV warned us about in the Fifties, it’s not the Commies who infiltrated the U.S. It’s Mr. Corporate Bush and the Republicans who’ve taken us over from the inside. How can the Dems let this nation build a Soviet-style Tijuana Wall of Empire? … I mean, Pogo said it best, “We’ve seen the enemy and he is us.”

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commisioner.